The island and the storms

There once was a man who lived on an island. The island was a good size, and many other people lived there. When he moved there, old-timers told him about the storms that regularly assailed the island. Sometimes the storms were light and passed by quickly. Sometimes they were very violent and destroyed homes. They told him how to prepare his house so it would not get damaged or cause harm to him during one of the storms.

The storms were predictable only in that they were going to happen, only nobody knew when. Sometimes they were seen far off at sea and everyone had a chance to batten their hatches. Sometimes they would spring up, seemingly out of thin air, and everyone who did not regularly prepare was at risk of damage from it.

The first storm of the season came in and he chose to ignore the advice of the old-timers. He’d not even gone to the store to buy supplies. Fortunately for him, the storm was fairly mild and his home did not get very damaged. The roof leaked in a few places, but it was still on at least. He chose to ignore the leaks, deciding they weren’t big enough to warrant his attention. Slowly the water from the leaks ate away at the wood and insulation in his home. Because he couldn’t see it, it went untended to.

Over the years the storms continued, some larger, some smaller. The damage to his house increased bit by bit, but he put it off, that being his nature. He could only be bothered to do repairs when they were impossible to ignore. Of course by then they were very difficult and costly and beyond his ability or skill to attend to. He often complained to his neighbors about how hard it was to be him, how difficult the repairs were, how large. He would often complain to anyone nearby about how unfair it was that he had to do these repairs, and now he had so many other projects he needed to work on. Some took pity on him and came over to help, bringing nails and shingles or new insulation. Some refused, saying they had spent all their money and time on materials to prevent damage to their own homes. Their unspoken statements were that he should’ve done the same, but they were too kind to say so. He often would whine about how difficult he had it, but most would not listen because they were busy with their own homes.

Then one day a large storm was observed far out to sea. There was about a day to prepare for it. It could not be avoided – they couldn’t get off the island and go to the mainland because the waters were too choppy from the winds. If he had been fortifying his house all along as the old-timers and his neighbors recommended, he’d have a chance of weathering the storm, but as it was he would barely have enough time and materials to prevent the windows from being blown out.

The storm grew closer, and he grew more anxious. He could see that he was directly in line of the storm, and started to openly lament his fate, saying that God must hate him and he must’ve been a terrible person to deserve this impending doom. He’d either forgotten or chose to ignore that he was on an island where storms were a regular occurrence. Many of his neighbors all over the island had gone through similar storms and had to repair their homes or entirely rebuild. But he didn’t see that because it had happened before he got to the island. They were the ones who had taken the time to warn him the most about the storms, yet he thought they were exaggerating or that such destruction couldn’t happen to him.

When the storm finally came, his house and everything in it was destroyed. He had no money to rebuild or move back to the mainland. He applied to the government for aid, and they – after interviewing his neighbors and asking if he had ever shored up his house in the past or tried to protect it, arrested him for fraud.
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The island is the human body. The storms are the usual misfortunes, problems, and troubles that happen in life. The old timers and neighbors are all those who advise us. We can choose to heed their advice or pay the consequences. We can choose to think that either we are above the normal storms of life, or that they are directly aimed at us by some twisted deity. Only those who accept the inevitability and prepare themselves for the storms will survive.

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The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector

Jesus told this parable to some people who were contemptuous and felt they were more righteous than everyone else:

“A Pharisee and a tax collector once went up to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee stood alone and began to pray “God, thank you that I’m not like other people – the greedy, unrighteous, or the adulterers, or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of my earnings.’

But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even raise his eyes up to heaven but kept striking his chest in mourning, saying ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner!’

I tell you, this man returned home justified, instead of the other one. Anyone who raises himself up will be humbled, but anyone who humbles himself will be raised up.”

LK 18:9-14

Parable of the lost son

Jesus said “A father had two sons. The younger one said to him ‘Father, give me my inheritance now,’ and his father honored his request. Not long afterwards, that son took all of his belongings and traveled far away to another country, where he spent all he had living large. When he was penniless, a famine broke out there and he became needy. Then he found a job working for a local citizen who sent him to feed the pigs in his fields. He desperately wanted to eat even the seed pods that the pigs were eating but nobody would let him have any.

When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself ‘All of my father’s workers have plenty of food, and I’m starving to death because of this famine! I should get up and travel back to my father and say to him Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Please take me on as a hired hand.’ He then got up and started to walk back to his father. But while he was still very far away, his father saw him and was overcome with compassion. He ran to him and hugged and kissed him. The son said ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’

But the father called to his servants, saying ‘Hurry! Fetch the finest robe we have and put it on him; bring a ring and sandals and put those on him as well. Then slaughter the fattened calf and let’s have a feast of celebration, because my son was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and has been found.’ And thus the party began.

Meanwhile his older son was in the fields. When he approached the house he heard the sounds of music and dancing. He called one of the servants to him and asked what was going on. The servant said ‘Your brother is here, and your father had us slaughter the fattened calf to celebrate that he has safely returned.’

The older son then became very angry and didn’t want to go into the house. His father came outside to plead with him. But the son replied ‘Look I have worked many years for you and I’ve always obeyed your orders, yet you never even gave me a young goat so I could have a feast with my friends. But when this son of yours shows up, the one who threw away your money on prostitutes, you have the fattened calf slaughtered for him!?’

‘Son’, he said, ‘you have never left me and all I have is yours. But we had to rejoice and celebrate because your brother was dead and has returned to life; he was lost and is now found.'”

LK 15:11-32

Parable of the lost coin

“What woman doesn’t light a lamp and thoroughly search the house from top to bottom if she loses a single silver coin out of the ten she has? She will call together her female friends and neighbors when she finds it, saying ‘Let’s celebrate, because I’ve found my lost coin!’ Truly, the angels before God are just as joyful when one sinner repents.”

LK 15:8-10

The parable of the vineyard workers

“The kingdom of heaven can be compared to the story of a landowner who went out early one morning to find people to work in his vineyard. After agreeing with them about the wage for the day, he sent them off to work. A few hours later he saw more men standing idle in the marketplace. He told them to go to his vineyard as well and he would pay them a fair wage. Around noon and again at 3 PM he hired more men. Around 5 o’clock he saw yet more people and asked them ‘Why are you standing around here doing nothing?’ ‘Because no one has hired us’, they said. ‘Go to my vineyard’, he told them, ‘and you will get a fair wage.’

When the work was over for the day, the owner told the foreman, “Call the workers in and pay them, starting with the last who were hired and ending with the first.” When the ones who were hired around 5 o’clock came, they were each paid a full day’s wage. When the first who were hired came, they were sure that they would get more, but they received the same amount as those who were hired last. The complained, saying ‘The guys you hired last only worked for one hour, and you gave them the same amount as us, who worked all day in the burning heat!’
‘Friend,’ he replied to one of them, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong to you! Didn’t you agree to work all day for this wage? Take it and leave. I want to give the last people who were hired the same as I give the first. Don’t I have the right to run my business the way I want? Are you upset because I am kind?’

In the same way, the last will be first and the first will be last.”

MT 20:1-16

The parable of the fig tree

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: when you notice that its branches are tender and leaves are sprouting, you know that it is almost summer. In the same way, when you see all the signs that I have told you about happening, then you know that the kingdom of God is near, at the very threshold! Mark my words, after all this happens this era will come to an end. Heaven and earth will fade away, but what I have said will last forever.”

MT 24:32-35, MK 13:28-31, LK 21:29-33

The parable of the unforgiving person.

Jesus said “The kingdom of heaven is like the idea of the king who wants to balance his books. In the middle of that process, a person who owed him $10 million was brought before him. Since the man had no way of settling his debt, the king ordered that the man, his wife, their children and everything they owned be sold to pay off the account.

The man threw himself to the ground and said ‘Master, please give me a little more time and I will pay you everything!’ The king felt compassion for him so he forgave his debt and sent him on his way.

However, just after the man left the king he found a person who owed him $2000. He started choking him and demanded to be paid back immediately. That man threw himself to the ground and said ‘Please give me a little more time and I will pay you everything!’ But the man refused his request and instead had him thrown into prison until he could pay his debt in full. Other people saw what had happened and they went to the king and told him everything.

The king summoned the man who had owed him $10 million and said ‘You wicked man! I forgave everything that you owed me because you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you then have mercy on someone who owes you?’ Then the king had him thrown into jail until he could pay back every penny that he owed. My Heavenly Father will treat you the same way if you refuse to truly forgive everyone who has harmed you.”

MT 18:23-35